Question! Third Eye Blind sang a) “Barely Breathing,” b) that “It’s 2am I Must Be Lonely” song, c) “Steal My Sunshine” or d) that one that goes “Doot-Doot-DOOT! Doot-Doo-DOOT!-Doo, Doot-Doot-DOOT! Doot-doo-DOOT!-Doo.” If you don’t know the answer, don’t worry! It’s easy to find out by walking down to the Sonoma County Fair, standing outside the fence of the Chris Beck Arena and listening as the quasi-funky drums, plaintive acoustic guitars and impassioned harmonies of one of 1997’s biggest bands blast from the stage, rebound off the rodeo grandstand and dissipate, unlistenably, into the sky over Brookwood Avenue.
Because “the Chris Beck concerts are restricted from press,” they tell me (oh really?), this happens to be my only option. Last year, for Huey Lewis & the News, this wasn’t such a bad thing, and I was still able to find some insight for a review while standing outside the gates. But I suspect that Third Eye Blind’s genius merits a closer analysis that can only be ascertained by witnessing the band visually, because on the other side of the barbed-wire fence it was hard to understand what the half-full grandstand was cheering for.
But wait! Here’s a song I kind of recognize! The chorus is something like “You are my freyyyyy-eyyy-eeyyyyy, eyyy-eyyynd, you are my freyyyyy-eyyy-eeyyyyy, eyyy-eyyynd,” and though I can’t really make it out exactly, I think the song is about suicide (or maybe I’m just getting it confused with the Sleater-Kinney song, which is maybe the first time in history Third Eye Blind has been confused with Sleater-Kinney). Anyway, if even I remember this song, it must have been a hit, and besides, the crowd is singing almost loud enough to overpower the sound of a horse trailer driving slowly by on the shoulder of the road outside the arena, almost running me into the ditch.
The song goes into one of those long, wanky, thundering drum solos, and then it really is like 1997 all over again: the drums have different sample triggers that produce deadpan spoken-word voices saying things like “bass” and “hi-hat” each time the drummer hits the bass and hi-hat. This goes on for a while, and then THIRD EYE BLIND STARTS PLAYING DUBSTEP. No joke, Third Eye Blind is blasting the crowd with womp-womp and brrrrr-brrrrrr, and the crowd’s going nuts, obviously because Third Eye Blind is the premier purveyor of dubstep in the world today.
During all this, a man walking along Brookwood Avenue stops 15 feet from me, unzips his pants and urinates on the fence, all while 15 empty Port-a-Potties sit empty right across the street, and all while Third Eye Blind is playing dubstep at the Sonoma County Fair.
The dubstep section goes on for like three minutes, but it really does sound crappy bouncing off the grandstand and into the nighttime air, so when the song is over I decide I have to make a move. Having my ways, I get into the fair just in time to hear Stephan Jenkins declare to the crowd “Northern California forever!” as the band leaves the stage and security pulls the doors to the arena open wide. This is a godsend. Have they never heard of encores? This is when the band is totally gonna play their biggest hit, whatever it is! They’re not taking tickets anymore. I stroll in.
Remember the trivia question at the beginning? If you guessed “that one that goes ‘Doot-Doot-DOOT! Doot-Doo-DOOT!-Doo, Doot-Doot-DOOT! Doot-doo-DOOT!-Doo,'” congratulations! It’s “Semi-Charmed Life,” voted 34th best song of the 1990s by VH1. And boy, was I right: you really need to be inside the arena when Third Eye Blind is playing to get the full effect. There’s a sudden bumrush from the bleachers to the rodeo gate on the floor, there are people waving their hands and dancing in the seats that aren’t empty. Oh—and then there are these guys:
Anyway, Stephan Jenkins says some canned patter about how there’s so much more life left in the band, and how he hopes we can all come together as one, and then the song ends and the rodeo grandstand empties out. I walk down the midway, overhearing people talk about the show: “That was amazing! The best thing ever!” says one. “I was like, ‘Motorcycle Drive By,’ oh my God!'” says another. “Did you see me stagedive?” asks a teenager, who was four years old when Third Eye Blind were at their peak.
And then there’s the girl in shorts, weaving all over the walkway between the old-timey photo booth and the fried artichoke stand, clutching a plastic cup and singing “I waaant suuummmmmthin’!! T’ get meee throuugh this!!! Semmma chummmmedkynnndaa life!” Third Eye Blind exists for this girl; this poor, broken thing whose emotional capacity is filled at least in small percentage by a dippy three-chord Top 40 hit from the Clinton era. Last I saw her before saying goodbye to Third Eye Blind forever, she was stumbling over to the Mini Donut stand, convinced that Guy Fieri was there.